The practice of acupuncture, and acupuncture for women’s health specifically, is not a new concept. It has existed for thousands of years and has been used as therapy for everything from irregular periods to menstrual cramping. What is new is how it is starting to be perceived in the West.
For a long time, it was considered a fringe form of medicine, at best. However, there has been a significant shift in the last few decades. Acupuncture is now considered a viable alternative treatment for many issues women experience by the medical community. In this article, we will discuss how it works and what it can help with, with a focus on women’s health.
The General Health Advantages of Acupuncture for Women’s Health
Acupuncture is the ancient practice of inserting fine needles into your body’s acupoints; it takes a holistic approach to improving the quality of life of people. It works on two levels: 1. the physical, by balancing your hormone levels, relaxing muscles, and stimulating blood flow and 2. the energetic, by facilitating the free flow of energy, or Qi, the vital force that circulates through your body.
There are many short- and long-term benefits of acupuncture – pain management acupuncture can help with acute and chronic pain, acupuncture for mental health can assist with anxiety, depression, and insomnia, acupuncture for fertility can help women who are having trouble conceiving, while acupuncture during pregnancy helps with morning sickness, indigestions, and helps prepare the body for labor.
In short, this medical practice can be beneficial to your overall health. However, there are many specialized forms that aim to treat and alleviate specific symptoms and require years of study and experience to be performed correctly. Now, we will focus on acupuncture for women’s health and how it can be used to treat the particular health issues experienced by women during their lifetimes.
Acupuncture for Menstrual Symptoms
A normal menstrual cycle is typically defined as ranging between 28 to 32 days, with periods lasting between four to seven days, and some accompanying discomfort due to PMS. However, as 14% – 25% of women have irregular menstrual cycles, many symptoms of this disorder have become so normalized that they are considered par for the course and something women simply need to live with.
Some of the symptoms of irregular menstrual cycles include:
- Shorter or longer cycles
- Lighter or heavier periods
- Amenorrhea (the complete absence of menstruation)
- Severe lower back pain
- Breast tenderness and pain
- Acne outbreaks
While these symptoms are par for the course for many women, they can be managed and their severity reduced. Acupuncture for women’s health can help reduce the pain and discomfort you feel due to an irregular menstrual cycle and regulate your cycle. Here is how it helps with:
Acupuncture for women’s health can help manage the frequency of your menstrual cycle by balancing the hormones that are responsible for menstruation. These treatments balance all four phases of the menstrual cycle: the menstruation, follicular, ovulation, and luteal phase.
Typically, irregular menstrual frequency is treated with medications, however, these medications can have side effects that acupuncture does not. Additionally, medications are not suited for women who are looking to get pregnant, making acupuncture treatment the preferred option in many cases.
PCOS and Metabolic Regulation
Irregular cycles can be one of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and one additional symptom of PCOS can be weight gain. Studies have estimated an obesity rate as high as 80% for women suffering from PCOS in the US. Clinical trials have demonstrated that acupuncture can be a safe and effective treatment for menstrual infrequency caused by PCOS as well as improve the body-mass index of women by enhancing endocrine and metabolic functions.
Menstrual Cramping: Dysmenorrhea
Another benefit of acupuncture for women’s health is how it can help manage the pains that occur as a result of PMS. Cramping is one common experience for women during their periods. Menstrual cramps happen when the uterus contracts to expel the uterine lining, thereby putting pressure on blood vessels and cutting off oxygen supply to the uterus.
Some discomfort is normal, however, menstrual cramping that stops you from performing your daily activities should not be considered normal and is a good reason to seek treatment. Acupuncture helps your muscles relax and improves the blood flow to your uterus, in the process enhancing oxygenation and lessening the pain you feel. This can help with both cramping intensity and duration and some women even feel the benefits for up to a year after treatments.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is another common symptom of PMS, but can also be caused by other gynecological problems like dysmenorrhea or endometriosis. Acupuncture for back pain can help manage these symptoms and provide short- and long-term pain relief. However, it should be noted that acupuncture is not meant to treat the underlying causes of lower back pain like endometriosis.
So, if you experience severe lower back pain due to a medical condition, acupuncture is a safe and effective complementary therapy to help you manage the symptoms, but you should still consult with a gynecologist or other medical professional to treat the root cause.
Breast Pain and Tenderness
Breast pain, also called mastalgia, is classified into non-cyclical and cyclical mastalgia. Non-cyclical mastalgia (NCM) is breast pain that is not associated with the menstrual cycle and the accompanying hormonal imbalances but is related to infections, injuries, surgery, etc; cyclical mastalgia (CM) is breast pain that typically starts one to two weeks prior to menstruation and is relieved by the onset of menses.
Approximately 68% of women between the ages of 18 and 44 experience CM and the effects are classified as moderate to severe for quality of life. Acupuncture sessions can help women manage breast tenderness and pain caused by the menstrual cycle, but it doesn’t stop there. There are indications that it may be an effective treatment for non-cyclical mastalgia, although additional clinical trials still need to be performed to confirm the findings.
While many would not consider acne outbreaks as problematic as some of the other symptoms that acupuncture for women’s health is meant to treat, hormonal acne does affect the quality of life of many women. Acupuncture for PMS can balance the underlying hormones that cause outbreaks and is an effective treatment with little to no side effects.
Acupuncture for women’s health is also used to treat the symptoms of menopause. While every woman will experience menopause differently, some of the most common signs of menopause, signs that can last for months or years, include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Irritability and mood swings
- Back, neck, and pelvic pain
Going into menopause is inevitable, but acupuncture can offer relief from the symptoms and let women get their lives back to normal.
An Acupuncturist Specializing in Women’s Issues
Acupuncture is an effective therapy for many issues women experience, but it needs to be performed by trained specialists. BH Acuhealth Clinic offers just that. We are licensed acupuncturists in Beverly Hills who provide women’s health acupuncture services.
We take a holistic approach and will consult with your other healthcare providers to design a treatment plan and find the optimal therapy for your condition. Most of all, we promise to treat you with the care and compassion you deserve. Make an appointment and let’s start working on improving your quality of life straight away.